Mae Clair’s Top 10 Reads of 2021: One Through Five

smart cat sits near a stack of books on a white background

Hello, and welcome to the final half of my Top 10 Reads for 2021. If you missed books six through ten, you can find them HERE.

All of the books I’m sharing are five-star reads. Each is linked to Amazon where you can read the blurb and explore reviews. I’ve included a few brief thoughts on each. 

Fun Fact 1:
I read book two on this list in January of 2021. It held the top spot as my favorite until December when a late-in-the year-read bumped it to number two. That’s a long time to be numero uno, especially given I’d read over 100 books by then!

Fun Fact 2:
I enjoyed all of these books so much, I purchased each in hardback or trade paperback, despite having read ebook copies of most.



5. IN THE SHADOW OF JEZEBEL by Mesu Andrews
A riveting journey of faith following Jehosheba, the granddaughter of Jezebel, who has been groomed to become a high priestess of Baal. Through an arranged marriage, she weds the high priest of God’s holy temple. The story presents a mix of warring kingdoms, political maneuvering, betrayals, and the rise and fall of rulers, all the while remaining truthful to the Old Testament and historic events.

4. FALLING by T.J. Newman
A pulse-pounding thrill ride about an airline pilot forced to decide between crashing his plane full of passengers or saving his wife and children who have been taken hostage by terrorists. I can’t say enough about the frantic pace in which the last half plays out. Falling is already slated for the big screen.

3. CHASING THE BOGEYMAN by Richard Chizmar
It’s the summer of 1988 and a serial killer haunts a small town. I can be squeamish about books with serial killers, but there is nothing overly graphic in this novel. Chills, goose bumps, suspense, and tension abound. In Chizmer’s skillful hands, the book becomes mystery, thriller, and a haunting tale of small-town life that lingers long after finishing. 

2. LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND by Rumaan Alam
Most reviewers either loved or hated this book with little room for middle ground. It’s a curious, sometimes annoying, but fully engrossing story about two couples (one white, one black, strangers to each other) who end up stranded together after an unknown event has knocked out phones, internet, and power. All the reader knows is that something terrible has happened. Something big. By turns eerie, mesmerizing, and crass, the atmosphere is what makes this book so outstanding—and disturbing.

MY TOP PICK FOR 2021 WITH FULL REVIEW

ISAIAH’S DAUGHTER
by Mesu Andrews

When it comes to historical novels, there are two time periods I love best—Victorian England and Old Testament times.

Starting in mid-November through the end of 2021, I devoured fourteen novels based on the lives of people who populated the Old Testament. Of them all, Isaiah’s Daughter moved me enough to claim top honors as my favorite read of the year. Maybe it’s because I’m so drawn to the story of King Hezekiah.

From his frightening childhood, as son to a father/king who worshiped idols and sacrificed children to the pagan god Molek by tossing them into fire, to the difficulties he faced during his own reign—especially against the Assyrian army—Hezekiah placed his faith in God for deliverance. At his side, supporting him with steadfast love, his wife, Hephzibah, was every bit as faithful. 

The story of Isaiah’s Daughter follows both from the time they are children—in a world of constant upheaval and danger—to their eventual marriage and adult years. The challenges each faces is staggering. The Bible tells us that because of his great faith, Hezekiah “was successful in whatever he undertook” and that “there was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.”

What astounds me most is the way in which the author has brought these people to life in a very personal sense. There is nothing stuffy, stilted, or draggy about this book. Both “Hezi” and “Zibah” are given vibrant life, along with many other historical figures and several fictional characters. The insight to Isaiah’s life as a prophet is particularly compelling, especially when balanced against his home life as a husband and father. The result is mesmerizing while delivering a message about the everyday struggles of faith we face. 

Certain parts had me as tense as a bowstring and I couldn’t read fast enough. Others made me laugh or warmed my heart to overflowing, and still others left me saddened by circumstance. Most of all, I was inspired and uplifted. I found it hard to put this book down and can’t recommend it highly enough. I would give it ten stars if I could! 


And that wraps up my top picks for 2021. I’m looking forward to discovering many new stories in the coming year and passing along my reviews. The great thing about books is the extraordinary variety which helps all of us find our own “goodreads.” I hope you’ve enjoyed exploring some of mine.

69 thoughts on “Mae Clair’s Top 10 Reads of 2021: One Through Five

  1. From this list, I’ve only read Chasing the Boogeyman. And I loved it. Nice to see it made your list, too. And I can tell how much you enjoyed your number one selection. Your passion for it shines through. Thanks for sharing these.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I remember when we were both reading Chasing the Boogeyman. It was such an great read. I’m glad you enjoyed it, too.
      Isaiah’s Prophet really stole the show when it came to my reading year. So many great books, but that one deserves top honors. Truly an outstanding story.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love that your reads based on the Old Testament brought you two of the top 5. I’m going to have to mark those down, as I share the same time period fascinations as you. Falling, like Survive the Night, is sitting on my shelf (literally, as I actually bought physical copies) waiting for me to have a break from ARCs. Excellent list, Mae!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Tessa, I just love that time period and the stories of the Bible. So glad they resonate for you as well. And Falling and Survive the Night are phenomenal. I can’t wait to see your reviews when you get caught up with ARCs!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Funny, I never buy print books anymore. I have been known to reread a book on occasion. Of these books, I read falling. It sort of reminded me of the old Airport movies (minus Karen Black flying the plane). I haven’t read Old Testament fiction but it might be something that would interest me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Joan, with books I really love, I like to have a print copy for my bookshelf. And during the summer months, I love reading paperbacks. I still visit two local bookstores to purchase print, but I also order them from Amazon.
      I LOVE fiction based on Old Testament events and people.There are a few I’m anxiously waiting for that I have on pre-order.
      If you’re interested in giving the genre a try, check out my Goodreads (or BookBub) page. Everything I read is listed there with the exception of one, which I couldn’t find on BB.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a great list, Mae, thank you for sharing. I love historical fiction and the eras you mentioned in particular. I will definitely check out these books.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jacqui, I worry what will happen if the power grid goes down. Leave the World Behind was in no way dystopian (what happens occurs in a short period of time) but it definitely gives you pause and makes you think. It was definitely an “unusual” book!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jill, I buy all of my non-fiction in print as well. I like to highlight passages and make notations on the pages if I use them for research. I don’t buy a lot of craft books, but I like them in print, too!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I bought and started The Boogeyman but didn’t get very far into it before the holidays hit, and I haven’t picked it up again yet. Read lightweight stuff then, but I’m reading Lisa Scottaline’s SOMEONE KNOWS right now. It has a slow start, too, and just keeps building. Isaiah’s Daughter sounds wonderful. Since you love Old Testament stories so much, did you read The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman? Did you like it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Judi, I enjoyed Someone Knows. It wasn’t what I thought it would be, but still a good book.
      Oooh–I’m not familiar with The Dovekeepers, but I am headed to Amazon to check it out. Thanks for the recommendation!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Let’s start with those covers… as beautiful as your other 5. I’m especially intrigued by the cover to “Falling.” Next, why did I not realize there’s a genre of books about the people of the Old Testament? I feel like I have failed in my duties as a preacher’s kid. So I’m especially glad you shared this bit of information. Lastly, “Chasing the Boogeyman” is definitely going to the top of my list of must reads this year. Of course, the other 4 will be added to the list as well. Thanks so much for sharing, Mae!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mar, the cover of Falling was the first thing that drew me to it. Talk about dramatic!!
      I’m glad I could introduce you to a new genre, too. I LOVE books based on Old Testament events and people. All the ones I read are listed on my Goodreads page and BookBub page (that’s missing one because BB didn’t have it in their catalog of books). Lots to choose from, LOL.
      And Chasing the Boogeyman is awesome. A little slow start, but then WOW. It’s “meta fiction” something I had never encountered before. Really good stuff.
      So glad you enjoyed the selection! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Well, MC, I missed most of these. I’ve become fascinated with prehistorical novels – The Braided Stream and The Drowning Land are two I’ve enjoyed recently. I’ll add Isaiah’s Daughter to my TBR list.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Wow, these all sound excellent, Mae! I need to create a challenge just to get to all your five-star reads. Loved seeing both posts for your top ten. The one that really stands out to me here is Falling. I can totally see how that would make an awesome movie. Hope to get to it soon! 👍

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mischenko, you have me laughing thinking about a challenge for my five star reads! 🙂
      I will say they were all definitely good, and I can’t wait to hear what you thinking of Falling. I thoroughly expect the movie will be a blockbuster!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m fascinated by your choices, Mae, in particular, your comments about Isaiah’s Daughter. Do these tales from the Old Testament need to be read in any particular order? This one in particular sounds riveting.

    Thanks so much for sharing your entire list with us. I’ve taken notes, as I hope to find more time for reading this year. BTW, I started Bloodless last night. The opening chapter alone had me turning pages like mad, and I can’t wait to see how or why it fits into the rest of the tale. And Coldmoon’s opinion aside, I love Savannah. It’s a beautiful town, filled with history both good and bad, and though I haven’t been there in years, I’ll never forget some of the places we visited. (Particularly, the old cemeteries.) Also, in a fit of optimism about my available time, I’ve even pre-ordered Diablo Mesa! 😃

    Happy Reading in 2022, my Penderpal, and thanks again for all these recommendations! 🤗💖

    Liked by 1 person

    • Marcia, you don’t have to read any of the Old Testament books I’ve mentioned in any order. They’re all based on the events of the Bible, so although some tales may come earlier (the time of Moses) and some later, like the tale of Hezekiah, you don’t have to read them in that order. Isaiah’s Daughter is a wonderful story which I really recommend, especially if you like reading about historical events.

      Oooh, I’m so glad you started Bloodless. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts—especially about the ending!! And I wish February would hurry up and get here so we can start Diablo Mesa!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for letting me know, Mae. I’m going to go check out Isaiah’s Daughter shortly. And I made a bit more progress in Bloodless last night. I have NO idea at all what’s going on in Savannah, or who’s going to play what roll in all the drama. It’s definitely a different sort of book for our duo, but so far, I’m enjoying it thoroughly. Will get back to you for sure when I finish it. 😀

        I had to cancel both of my local talks for January as I haven’t been feeling well, and didn’t want to be in contact with others until I’m back to normal, so … I’ve had a wee bit more reading time than normal, and hope to whittle down my TBR pile at least a bit. (We’ll see how that goes.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh no! I hope you’re on the road to recovery. I know you’ve had it rough for a while now. You don’t need to be feeling unwell on top of it, plus there is so much of this Omicron variant going around. My workplace has been slammed with people coming down with COVID. Take care of yourself. I’m glad you have AXL and the weirdness that is Bloodless to keep you entertained. If you read Isaiah’s Daughter, I’d love to hear what you think of that one, too!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Other than the Bible, which I spent a lot of time reading as a girl, and children’s books, I’ve never read a book about a Biblical character. I share your love of the Victorian era and to that I would add war books. Any war, I love them all. A great selection of reads.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve read several books about American Wars, Robbie (Revolutionary, Civil War, and Plains War), but I admit I’ve never read any books about WWI or WWII. A lot of the books I read on the America Wars were nonfiction but I have read a few fictional accounts as well. I think you would enjoy Biblical fiction if you enjoy reading the Bible. It really brings the characters and events to life!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. You had a great year of reading, Mae. Congrats on polishing off so many books. And thanks for sharing your favs. The “top” lists are so enticing and almost irresistible. I also purchase my favorite ebooks in paperback. They’re wonderful to hold in my hands. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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